Festivals         38th Manaki Brothers International Film Festival, Bitola, 23-30 September, 2017.

Touch the Light

The curtains of the Manaki Brothers International Film Festival closed this year again in the city of Bitola (Monastir). The Manaki Brothers, Milton and Giannaki, considered to be the pioneers and avant-garde photographers and film makers from Grevena (Abdela), roamed the Balkans in the first quarter of the last century, with photo and cinema cameras (English '300') to record historic events and cultural traditions of their time.

There are two unique concepts of this festival. Contrary to other festivals, it focuses and honors directors of photography (DoP's), who strive behind the camera to interpret the ideas of the director; second, it gives a great opportunity to young cinematographers from many countries to present their work and share their ideas and questions (Student Debates hours). The motto this year was TOUCH THE LIGHT. The festival dream team - Blagoia Kunovski (president and director) and Gena Teodicievska (artistic director), Aneta Matovska, Aleksandra Bubevska - meticulously organized the program with the help of many volunteers. The sections of the selected 58 films included: Official Competition (fiction and short films), documentaries, animation, European Cinema Perspectives, Out of Competition, Countries in Focus, Mak Point, Junior Program and Student Debates, all under the context of the Golden Camera '300'. And, of course, every day press conference and Master Classes. The jury: Paul Rene Roestad from Norway (president). Lucca Coassin (Italy), J-P Passi (Finland), Darijan Pejovski (FYROM) and Erol Zubcevic (Bosnia-Herzegovina). With such a profound quality of the films it was very difficult to select the best film.

The awarded films.

This year the festival's special award "Golden Kamera 300 went to Giuseppe Peppino Rotunno, Pierre LHomme and Milcho Manchevski, for their outstanding contribution to cinema.Special Mention: to cinematographer Daniil Fomichev (Russia) for his debut work in the Alexander Hant’s film:  ‘How Victor “Garlic” Took Alexei to the Nursing Home’,  also awarded at the Karlovy Vari festival. With a dexterous use of lenses and perfectly lighted scenes, he supported the story of a rebel young men against his criminal father.  The last scene was very ‘eloquent’, as it let the viewer ‘write’ the end!

- The Golden Kamera 300, went to Marcel Rev’s, DoP, for his work in the film, ‘Jupiter Moon’ by Kornel Mundruczo (Hungary-Germany). When the film was shot, the refugee problem in Hungary just began. Special effects made a man ‘fly around’ and ‘perform miracles’. The explicit involvement of Nazi officials and doctors allowed some ambivalent impressions. Marcel Rev in also the DoP in the first Mundruczo’s unforgettable film ‘The White God’.

Reiner Klausmann (Germany) received The Silver Kamera 300 for his excellent work in Fatih Akin’s film, ‘In The Fade’. A woman seeks revenge - in a Korean style - for the death of her husband and son (a terrorist act). The trial of the accused assassins, is unjust and she chases the assassins in Greece. Diane Kruger (Actress) and actor/cinematographer Economidis were stupefying, in a Greek-like tragedy catharsis.

The Bronze Kamera 300 went to DoP Dejan Dimeski (Bosnia-Hercegovina-Serbia-Slovenia) for Elmir Jukic’s film ’The Frog’, an adaptation of awarded theatrical play. Using the allegory of the tale of the frog, he depicted once more the deep trauma of the war (1992-95). In a barbershop two brothers argue their differences about the war in 1992. One must comment on the difficulties of two cameras in a small room with mirrors and four windows! From the films I saw: 

1) The Party (UK, 2017), by Sally Potter. DoP Alexei Rodionov and a long list of famous actors (Kristin Scott Thomas, Timothy Spall, Bruno Ganz, Emily Mortimer, Patricia Clarkson)

2) Feliciti (France) by Alain Gomis, DoP Celine Bozon. An account of a Kinshasa woman singer struggling against corruption and lack of medical coverage in Kongo. It was more like a documentary. Excellent scenes, music and poetry.

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3) On Body And Soul (Germany, France). DoP Mate Herbai in IIdiko Enyedi’s film, awarded in Berlin (Golden Bear). In a slaughterhouse, a young woman with Asperger syndrome and a hemiplegic fellow worker (not an actor) have the same dreams. Very intense and tender.  

4) Viktoria  (Bulgaria-Romania). The unwanted birth of a girl with no belly bottom is an explicit satire of communism at the time of Zivkov. 4) The Wall (Belgium) with a very clever theme of the role of walls between apartments.

5) I Am Not From Here (Lithuania) about a Basque old woman in dementia, living in a nursing home in Chile and her obsessive nostalgia of her country (European Perspectives).

6) Limbo (Greece), by Kostantina Kotzamani, DoP Yorgos Karvelas. In a poetic ambient (leopards and wolves – lamps and goats) children are in awe by a washed out whale carcass.

7) Look at Her (FYROM). A stubborn rebel high school girl, determined to get the Epiphany Cross, clashes with men.

8) Damiana (Columbia-Brazil), a girl seeks her identity in the rain forest. 9) The film ‘Mothers’, (FYROM) by Milcho Manchevski. Superb work, like the rest of all his films (Short films section).

On the animation side, the ‘Distance’ (Germany) by Florian Grolig and Julian Vavrovski, was cleverly done; a tall building resident, close to the clouds, struggles with chaotic events. Personally, I was disappointed with the way Claire Denis (DoP Madame Goderd), otherwise both so skillful and experienced, used the unsurpassable talents of Juliette Binoche and Gerard Depardieu, in monotonous and uninteresting dialogues, in ‘Let The Sunshine In’, at the closing ceremony of a rewarding festival otherwise.

I was overwhelmed by the Master Class of Christian Berger who let us entere the shrines of his incredible work in using light in the films, i.e., L’ Amour with Jean-Louis Trintignant. We really touched the light!

One last comment: Next to the organisers, volunteers, accredited DoP’s, directors and actors, the translating/presentation services by the young lady were absolutely great. Immediate and precise.

Till the 39th festival…


Kiriakos Peftitselis

Reporter for Thessaloniki Media Press

I am 72 years old, born in Greece (Thessaloniki).I have been a freelance reporter for Greek media and cinema magazines on festivals in Europe. In the last 8 consecutive years, I am accredited in the following festivals (sometimes also as a jury 
- Istanbul IFF (IKSV), every April. 
-Bozcaada IFF Documentary (BIFED-on 
  Ecology and Environment), every October.
- Bitola (Macedonia) IFF, every September. 
- Sighes De Nuit IFF. Paris-Urbine- Berlin-
  Portugal (jury) 
-Trevigniano (Italy) IFF, every September (jury). 
-Kluj (Romania) IFF in June. 
-Thessaloniki IFF. November and documentary 
  festival in March.

Besides Greek, I speak English, Spanish, French, 
Italian, Russian and Turkish.  I had been a seismology engineer/researcher at universities (USA, Canada, Mexico, China, Japan, Reunion, Paris, Turkey and Thessaloniki) until 2008.But, always a fanatic cinephile since the high 
school years, with some script writing.

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